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Sindhis hard pressed by Disease, Poverty, Corruption, and Uncaring Government‏

WHAT SINDHIS SHOULD DO TO SOLVE THEIR PROBLEMS AND SECURE FUTURE OF SINDH?

by Khalid Hashmani, McLean, Virginia

On Dec. 20, 2008, I had an opportunity to attend a discussion session on “Hepatitis” organized by Iqbal Tareen on in Washington DC.

The session was attended by many local Sindhis and several other Pakistanis. The main feature of this meeting was to exchange views and information with Dr. Thelma King Thiel (Chairwoman and Chief Executive Officer of Hepatitis Foundation International (www.hepatitisfoundation.org). Although, overall, the focus of the information exchange was the impact of Hepatitis B and C world-wide, but the discussion were more focused on multiple-tragedies that have been inflicted on native Sindhis in their homeland of Sindh. Not only rural areas of Sindh suffer one of the highest poverty rate in Asia, a large number of Sindhis in several districts suffer higher burden of this disease compared to other areas of Pakistan. As if these two tragedies were not sufficient, we learnt that almost none of the resources and funds allocated by the federal and provincial governments has reached to actual victims of this disease. It was said that concerned journalists and social workers have written private e-mails to North American Sindhis that much of the funding distributed thus far has either fallen victim to corruption or used to hire officials and provide them with vehicles and other amenities. Shame on the government and newly hired officials for loosing the true sight of victims and continuing to engage in corrupt practices at the expense of the victims who need and deserve immediate attention.

A. “HEPATITIS IN PAKISTAN” PROJECT

A 5-page article/briefing was presented by Saeen Iqbal Tareen. The briefing included welcome remarks about Dr. Theil and others. Mr. Tareen expressed hopes that the session will be a beginning of an effective collaboration between Hepatitis Foundation International and the Forum Justice and Democracy in Pakistan. He urged that Pakistani Diaspora ought to take proactive measures to create awareness about the problem and seek financial and technical assistance.

A.1 DEPTH AND SIZE OF PROBLEM OF HEPATITIS IN SINDH

Pakistan does not an active and effective surveillance program to monitor tends of the Hepatitis group of diseases. However, every one agrees that the disease is extremely predominant in the rural areas of the Sindh province. According estimates about 7 million persons (16% of total population) in Sindh are tested to be Hepatitis positive with 1.5 million having active Hepatitis B reactive and another 1.7 million having Hepatitis C reactive.

A.2 CAUSES OF HEPATITIS SPREAD IN SINDH

The key factors for growth of this disease in Sindh are poverty, negligence, and lack of basic social services. The specific causes are repeated re-use of syringes and razor blades, and blood transfusion. The health care system in rural areas of Sindh is worst in Pakistan. The government monitoring of blood banks is so bad that most of them are not only unregistered but often carry expired blood supplies and screening kits. A research article by Janjua and Hutin (2005), Sindh has the highest rate of injection delivery (13 injections per person per year) with 47% of these injections are unsafe.

A.3 COLLABORATION BETWEEN NORTH AMERICAN AND SINDHI/PAKISTANI GROUPS

The initiatives that have been taken by the Hepatitis Foundation International (headed by Dr. Thiel) and Forum Justice and Democracy in Pakistan (Coordinated by Mr. Tareen) can open up opportunities to overcome diseases such as Hepatitis. The Foundation has a wealth of tools and materials for creating awareness and educating medical staff and general public on prevention of Hepatitis.

B. SINDHIS HARD PRESSED BY DISEASE, POVERTY, CORRUPTION and UNCARING GOVERNMENT

How can we North American Sindhis present a convincing case to people, governments, and organizations in North America to come to rescue of victims of these disease when see Sindhi officials taking away resources designated for the eradication of the tragic Hepatitis disease from rural areas of Sindh? Sometimes, one wonders, when will we develop an individual and collective consciousness to do what we repeatedly talk?

Crushed by many years of victimization and being ignored under Mr. Sharif’s government and General Musharraf’s dictatorship with MQM dominating all major decision-making apparatus in Sindh, they voted in overwhelming numbers to help the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) to come to power. Tragically, even after PPP’s impressive victory, they have not received much relief from their continued misery. Other than some cosmetic hiring, Sindhis appear to have lost more ground due to the discriminatory policies of Karachi city government, which was illegally empowered by General Musharraf’s regime at the expense of people of local Sindhi surrounding villages and the provincial government.

B.1 POOR EDUCATION IN RURAL SINDH AND LACK OF TEACHING OF SINDHI LANGUAGE IN SINDH’s SCHOOLS

The state of education in rural Sindh continue to deteriorate. The standards of education in government schools in urban areas have fallen so bad that most parents prefer to send their children to private schools. In spite of the provincial laws that make Sindhi a compulsory language, the private schools flout these laws openly and refuse to offer Sindhi language in their schools. Several Sindhi experts now predict that children in urban Sindh are being deprived of the opportunity to learn Sindhi language. They forecast that in few decades, the Sindhi language be confined on those who live in rural areas.

B.2 LOT OF STATEMENTS BUT VERY LITTLE GOVERNMENT ACTION TO HELP SINDHIS

Every week, we hear government ministers issuing statements about initiating new programs, allocating billions to various sectors to create employment, protect Sindhi language, culture, and heritage, improve education and eradicate poverty and disease and yet the suffering of people continues unchecked. The plight of fishing community, Sindhi villages around Karachi, rural areas of Sindhis continues unabated. Last week the Fisher community of coastal areas announced that after waiting 10 months for their favorite People’s government to address their issues, they have given up hopes in this government and would re-start their movement to win their rights. The Haris (farmers) of Sindh have been demonstrating and demanding Agrarian Reforms. Many Sindhis now feel that other than making hallow statements, the officials of the present government are more interested in filling their pockets instead of representing their interests and bringing about changes that are required to solve their problems.

WHAT SINDHIS SHOULD DO TO SOLVE THEIR PROBLEMS AND SECURE FUTURE OF SINDH?

Every day more and more Sindhis are questioning the wisdom of their vote in the last Pakistani election. People are wondering if their pragmatic decision to vote for PPP is so far proving to be a mistake. The party they thought was dynamic and well-prepared to face new challenges and steer effectively to restore justice to Sindhis is appearing to be more lethargic, confused, and afraid of taking any daring actions of substantial value to Sindhis. PPP finds it easy to announce that Kala Bagh dam has been shelved permanently but quite scared to ensure that language laws of Sindh are fully implemented. They find it easier to announce that they will tackle the huge problem of poverty in Pakistan, yet half of schools in rural areas of Sindh remain closed. Instead of offering protection to Sindhi villages around Karachi and creating jobs and educational opportunities for Sindhis in Karachi, they have adopted a “hands-off” approach in Karachi. This has allowed the mayoralty of Karachi unlimited power to sell Sindh’s assets in the name development and control who can reside in Karachi and who can receive education and health services. The people of Sindh wanted a reasonable compromises and win-win agreements and have no stomach for decisions that further surrender their rights.

Having been disappointed with the performance of Sindhi nationalist parties, PPP, and other mainstream parties such as PM, Sindhis have no choice but to think for new options and new leaders to secure their future in fast changing global conditions.

The situation is do hopeless that the option need of creating a new political party with mission to secure sovereignty of Sindhis over the decisions that affect their lives seems to be a viable alternative.

I find many parallels between the current situation in Sindh and the Canadian province of Québec. Just like Canada that has Liberal Party, Pakistan has the PPP. Just like PPP’s leadership has predominantly come from Sindh, the leadership of Liberal Party has mainly been from Québec. Liberal Party had a charismatic leader from Québec named Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau (who was a French Canadian) we had Shaheed Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto (who was a Sindhi Pakistani). In Canada, the Liberal Party was a populist federal Party just as PPP is a popular federal party.

The French Canadians, tired of waiting for the liberal Party to protect their cultural, language, and economic rights, created Parti Québécois in the Quebec province. The mission of this political party http://encarta.msn.com/encyclop edia_761588464/parti_quebecois.html

described at this web site is:

“Parti Québécois (PQ), or Québec Party, Canadian political party dedicated to political sovereignty for the province of Québec. The party’s main goal is sovereignty- association, whereby Québec would retain economic associations with the rest of Canada but be politically independent. Under sovereignty- association, Québec would share with Canada a common monetary system, free trade, and other economic agreements, but it would have the political authority to impose its own taxes, make all its own laws, and negotiate its own international treaties, conventions, and accords. The issue is highly controversial in the province and throughout Canada. In a 1995 referendum, Québec voters narrowly rejected sovereignty- association.”

If Sindhis feel that PPP has failed to protect their cultural, language, and economic rights, they could go for the establishment of a new Sindh Sovereignty Party. The mission statement of such a political party could follow the mission statement of Parti Québécois (PQ), as follows :

“The mission of the Sindh Sovereignty Party is to negotiate a new agreement with the Government of Pakistan based on the equality of nations; This agreement would enable Sindh to acquire the exclusive power to make its own laws, levy its taxes, eradicate corruption, and establish relations abroad at the same time to maintain with Pakistan an economic association including a common currency.”

I am sure there are other creative options to resolve the problems of Sindhis hard pressed by disease, poverty, Corruption, and uncaring government. I hope others will share their ideas as the time to discuss the changes that we need to survive as a people in future is now.